“Exact No More…”

All four of the gospel writers share some of the teachings of John the Baptist, but only Luke includes a set of answers John gave when three groups of people asked him the same question: “What shall we do?”

  1. To the people: “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.”
  2. To the publicans (tax collectors): “Exact no more than that which is appointed you.”
  3. To the soldiers: “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.”

(See Luke 3:10-14.)

The guidance is specific to the circumstances of the questioners, but the underlying principle is the same: It is possible for you to abuse the power you have. You must discipline yourself to not take more than you should.

King Benjamin demonstrated this same kind of restraint. At the end of his reign, he reported on his activities: “I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you; neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons,… and even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne” (Mosiah 2:12-14).

He urged his people to exercise similar moderation:

  • “Render to every man according to that which is his due” (Mosiah 4:13).
  • “Succor those that stand in need of your succor” (Mosiah 4:16).
  • “Ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Mosiah 4:21).

And his son, King Mosiah, followed in his footsteps. “He also, himself, did till the earth, that thereby he might not become burdensome to his people, that he might do according to that which his father had done in all things” (Mosiah 6:7). Years later, at the end of Mosiah’s reign, the people expressed gratitude for his conscientious leadership: “They did wax strong in love towards Mosiah…for he had not exacted riches of them,… and he had granted unto his people that they should be delivered from all manner of bondage” (Mosiah 29:40).

Today, I will fulfill my responsibilities with modesty and with kindness. I will strive to “exact no more” from other people than is needful and not to abuse the authority I have been given.

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